30 candid minutes with the rising rapper to talk his debut album 'El Dorado' and his secret sauce for TikTok fame.
by Gabby Sgherri
“Fuck everybody else, respectfully,” 24kGoldn says with a smirk. He’s focusing on himself—a realization he came to over the last year—by creating a trusted circle of friends and family who love him for him. Positive vibes only. That sort of sentiment, from the San Francisco-native who has had a meteoric rise in fame in a little over eight months, is admirable. At just 20 years old, Golden Landis Von Jones exudes wisdom beyond his years. He’s managed to stay grounded as his first single, “Valentino” went viral on TikTok and his single “Mood” blew up. It wasn’t long before he hit #1 on the Billboard charts, amassing almost a billion streams on Spotify. Justin Bieber and J Balvin even took notice and jumped on the remix.
The trajectory of Von Jones’ career is as impressive as the dripped-out style pics on his Instagram. He excitedly tells us about how he went from performing for small crowds to thousands within a matter of six months. It’s the type of viral success that most artists are chasing these days and Von Jones is the first to admit that social media is a key factor. The tongue-in-cheek TikTok videos come naturally to him—he has over four million followers on the app. Combine that with his talent for making feel-good music that gets stuck in your head all day and it’s no wonder he’s captured the attention of the internet. Throughout our call, it becomes clear that everything about 24kGoldn’s online persona is authentic to the person behind it.
We chat about his debut studio album El Dorado, his favorite gold jewelry (of course), and the sneakers he wore before Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert.
Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
From the Bay [area], E-40 is the biggest one. I was in kindergarten shaking my invisible dreads singing “Tell Me When To Go.” But I always had a really wide perspective of music because [of] my parents. They were putting me on to shit from Michael Jackson to Lauryn Hill; my mom put me on to Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars.
Your debut studio album is called “El Dorado,” is there a meaning behind the title?
El Dorado has got a couple [of] different meanings. It means “the golden one” and my real name is Golden, so that was a nickname my mom had given me growing up. In one sense, “the golden city” is this mythological and historical city of gold, a lot of people like explorers tried to find it and loot the city but no one ever did. The Golden City is my hometown in San Francisco, we have the Golden State Bridge, Golden State Warriors…etc. So it’s like taking me, where I came from, and this fantasy world that I’m trying to create for my fans to use to escape reality—whatever COVID situation it is, whatever BS they’re dealing with in real life and just live in the music.
Was the process for making an album different than singles?
This is my first album, so I never really had the chance to give so much of myself in the music before. It’s been single and single, and you can listen to those and start to understand who I am, how I feel, and what I’ve been through. But it’s different doing it as a complete album. I’ve grown a lot as an artist over the last two years and this is the best project I’ve made in my entire life. Before I was figuring what I could do like, “alright, let me try making a trap song; let me try making a rock song; let me try making a pop song.” Now I’ve figured out how to take the best of all those different genres and make something that’s uniquely Golden.
What do you hope that your fans take away from this album?
I hope it makes them smile, or it makes their lives a little better. I know how much music can impact your mood. Music is the most powerful form of art because I don’t think anything else can change your entire state of mind in three minutes or less. So whether they’re feeling bad and [it] helps them feel less alone or if they’re having a great day and are driving by the beach with their friends bumping “Company”—whatever it is that makes them feel better.
How do you find the balance between happy and sad in your music?
There are two types of sad songs; sad songs that make you feel worse and wallow in your sadness or sad songs that are going to make you feel better or give you some acceptance of whatever your sad situation is. I always aim to listen to and make the second type of song because I think it’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not okay to stay not-okay. You gotta keep going and keep pushing. I hope that people can get that from my music.
You’re very popular on TikTok and Instagram, what is your relationship with social media like?
It’s a love/hate thing for sure. It’s kind of fucked up because I’m really good at it but it’s a whole other job. I love making TikTok videos because it reminds me of being on Vine when I was in middle school. I think it’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re not on social media—creating content on a regular basis—you’re not going to get as big as you could be as an artist. That’s just a fact of the matter. It’s part of the game. I try to have as much fun with it as possible and not take the likes and comments too seriously.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that L.A. is very clout-focused, what helps keep you grounded?
The people around me, taking time to do things for myself, and being thankful. I think where a lot of people fuck up is a sense of entitlement. I know I’ve had this happen to me when I felt like I’m on top of the world, so I should get XYZ. You give any 19-year-old instant money and fame, they’re probably going to not handle it in the best way. Thankfully, my parents raised me really well and I have great friends, so I think I handle it better than most. It’s part of the process and being self-aware of what stuff is good for you and bad for you.
You’re really into fashion, if you had to pick one outfit as your signature look, what would it be?
That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child [laughs]. You can’t ask that to a parent. My signature sneaker is definitely the Lanvin Curbs. They remind me of when I was in elementary school and I would always go for the skate shoes with the fat ass tongue like the DCs.
When you got your first cheque from your label, what did you splurge on?
I don’t know what I was thinking, to be honest with you, but I went and bought every single color of the North Face x Supreme bandana jacket from 2014. That was one of the things I wanted in high school [so] once I got money I was like “fuck it, let me just get em all.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
This shit is a roller coaster. It’s going to be full of ups and downs and the sooner you can accept that and just learn how to have fun along the ride, the happier you’ll be and the better of an artist you’ll be.
What has been one of the craziest moments in your career so far?
Bay Area Rolling Loud 2019 because that was my first time being back in The Bay [and] performing like that. I’d done a Rolling Loud in L.A, across from USC, but it was before Valentino blew up, so there were probably seventy people there. I was just happy to be there but I was like, alright the next one, hopefully, there will be some more people. Six months [later], I’m back home in the Bay. It’s about to be my set and I remember peering out from behind the stage and seeing 5,000 people in the crowd. I [was] like “all these people came to see me? Where were y’all six months ago.” [Laughs] That was the best performance of my life so far, being in my hometown, watching all the kids that I grew up around moshing to my music. That was a dream come true.
You posted a crazy pair of gold grills on your Instagram recently, tell us about the inspiration behind them.
I wanted it to be different because everybody out here is getting the full diamond teeth and I didn’t want to get regular gold because that’s just too plain. So I’m like “fuck jewelry, let’s make art.” I connected with Everett Wiethorn and The Crown Collection, he casted the grills in 18K gold and he hand-engraved the Aztec designs. I gave him the vision and he executed it incredibly.
Which gold chains are your favorite?
[There’s] two I never take off; a Valentino and a heart. I like to call them my lil trinket chains because it’s not super big [so] you can wear it whenever. The heart because I got a lot of love and the Valentino because that was the first big song I ever had—to never forget what got you here and be thankful for that.
What are you keeping on and off your plate post-pandemic?
I’m the type of person that is really empathetic and I like to make the people around me feel as good as possible. But I’m starting to learn if you give all your energy away, and you give all your happiness away, you are not gonna have none for yourself. So cutting out the bullshit and focusing on my friends and family that really love me for me, for Golden Landis Von Jones and not necessarily 24kGoldn. Fuck everybody else, respectfully.